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Santa Fe Trail

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Santa Fe Trail

Published 1940

The year is 1854. Robert E. Lee is Superintendent of West Point, where J.E.B. Stuart (Errol Flynn) and George A. Custer (Ronald Reagan) are classmates. In the dormitory, one of the cadets (Van Heflin) reads aloud the secession-promoting pamphlets of abolitionist John Brown.

At graduation, the address is given by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. J.E.B. Stuart and Custer are assigned to the 2nd Cavalry in the Kansas territory, where they have to deal with John Brown.

This copy has better video quality than the one already here in the archive.

The mpeg2 file contains nav-packets, so you can load it into DVDAuthorGUI (a free program) and create a DVD to watch on your television. If you don't have burning software, I suggest ImgBurn (another free program).

Run time 1:49:38
Audio/Visual sound, black and white


Reviewer: thetimemeddler - - September 13, 2016
Subject: took me awhile to find a good copy of this film
Here's where it can be found, a much sharper picture,
Reviewer: maltymilton - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 4, 2014
Subject: Errol Flynn - Santa Fe Trsail
I gotta think the previous reviewers are missing the point. It is no more historical than Flynn and Curtis's Robin Hood. What it is is a damn good movie. 5 stars - it's just a show, you should really just relax.
Reviewer: GratefulBugs - favorite - August 31, 2014
Subject: Awful
Ronald Reagan was the worst actor of his time. Wooden, stilted and forced, here he is completely miscast as the flamboyant and charismatic General Custer. Though in historical hindsight a scoundrel of a President was a "perfect" choice to play a scoundrel of a General, Reagan's bland and dry acting style would have been better as an undertaker than a colorful Cavalryman.

And as for "Historical Hindsight" this film is full of (sh)it. Thoroughly mangled attempt at some sort of "true story", the misrepresentations and half-truths are only eclipsed by the downright historical mendacity of the writers.

One of the worst films I have ever seen; bad acting, a terribly corny script and historical characters misplayed so badly that their respective real, historical figures must have been turning over in their graves.
Reviewer: Dark Moon - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 19, 2011
Subject: "The meteor of the war"

That's what Herman Melville called John Brown. Though they never used that phrase in the film, they managed to maintain an atmosphere of prophesy and portents that worked for me. Maybe I'm a sucker for such things, ;) but I think they did it right in this film, without laying it on too thickly or making it hokey. The Indian squaw's prophesy to the group of friends and West Point graduates (starting at about 1:18) that they would "all be famous men, great in battle, but bitter enemies" sent a little chill up my spine (especially when they all laughed it up at her forecasts).

There is plenty of story in this film to hold the viewer's interest. We start with the senior class of cadets at West Point, only a few weeks before their graduation. A scuffle breaks out in the barracks room when Rader (Van Heflin) antagonizes some of the other cadets by reading aloud one of John Brown's pamphlets. Rader is summarily discharged, and joins John Brown's forces. The other cadets are to be stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, upon their graduation.

From there, the film follows both the graduates at Ft. Leavenworth (paying particular attention to J.E.B. Stuart and George Custer), and John Brown, who is by now also in Kansas. It ends with Brown's raid on the armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, and his famous last words, spoken on the gallows.

If that's not enough, Custer and Stuart are also rivals for Kit Carson's (Olivia De Havilland) hand in marriage; that story provides a little humour to lighten things up a bit. Another side story, of the two scouts who want to join the regiment, also helps to keep the film interesting.

Events and their results are portrayed in the film mostly in a matter-of-fact, "this is the way it happened," almost docudrama sort of style. I could not detect the least trace of moralizing, of "this was right" or "that was wrong." The nation was a powder keg, and the doings of John Brown was part of what lit the fuse. There have been many such people in history. Other than that, I didn't see that the film had any particular point to make.

I'm no history expert, but the events as narrated in the film are in reasonable accord with what I've seen and read elsewhere, and much more so than many such films. Wikipedia has an article on" rel="nofollow">John Brown and one on" rel="nofollow">Bleeding Kansas that will provide some background to anyone who may be interested.

Another reviewer remarked on Reagan's bravery in the saddle. I got the impression that Reagan was an accomplished horseman when I saw a brief film clip somewhere of him grooming one of his horses at his ranch in California and going out for a trail ride. Not only did he know to use a hoof pick to clean out his horse's feet, but he knew to hold each of the horse's legs between his knees the way the farriers do it, so as not to get stepped on if his horse decided to pull loose.

I downloaded the 816.6 MB "Cinepack" AVI file. The video is encoded with "FFmpeg/ffdshow ISO MPEG-4" (FMP4), the audio with MP3. Video is 544x416 (4:3) at 29.970 fps progressive, audio is joint stereo VBR. The print quality is very good, and the encoding is clean with no pixelation or artifacts.

I've already watched this film twice. I may even keep it around to see for a third time. :)
Reviewer: rclo - favoritefavoritefavorite - April 28, 2011
Subject: Close enough to make the point
Perhaps the story is not historically accurate in every respect, as indicated by another reviewer, but it's close enough to make the point. John Brown was a zealot with a cause, and he was determined to achieve the cause in his lifetime at any cost. Perhaps the bloody war between the states was inevitable, but it was brought about in a deliberate manner by the legislative processes that formed the Country. John Brown worked outside of those processes, and that was his wrong.

The film tries to make that point while remaining sympathetic to the plight of the slaves. If you don't like the laws, change them in accordance with the law.

A strong cast, producer and director. It's surprising that they let this slip out of copyright.

There is a sound print-through about 1:10 that ruins a few minutes of the dialogue.
Reviewer: kareneliot - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 28, 2010
Subject: I enjoyed it
I liked this movie... but I like most civil war movies.
Reviewer: Jeremy Sachs - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 28, 2009
Subject: hi
Archive tell me that writing a review is the only way to get hold of the person who posted this film. I am emailing from a certain theatre company in the UK who would like to talk to the person who posted the film.

Can you send me an email address I can contact you on?

I am sorry I am using this section of the website inappropriately.

Reviewer: slugs and urchins - favoritefavoritefavorite - May 15, 2009
Subject: can't get there from here...
This is a very entertaining bit of historical nonsense. It distorts nearly every aspect of the politics involved in Kansas at the time.

The one thing that stands out is R. R.'s bravery in the saddle. He must have remembered this as one of his shining moments....
Reviewer: quigs - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 6, 2009
Subject: Santa Fe Trail
Much better!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now I can actually watch this film instead of listening to it. The other version of Santa Fe Trail; dump it in the trash can.
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